Ruling

03690-19 Davies v The Jewish Chronicle

    • Date complaint received

      2nd April 2020

    • Outcome

      Breach - sanction: action as offered by publication

    • Code provisions

      1 Accuracy

Decision of the Complaints Committee 03690-19 Davies v The Jewish Chronicle

Summary of Complaint

1. John Davies complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation that The Jewish Chronicle breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice in an article headlined “'Vile' attacks by soap star condemned”, published on 19 April 2019.

2. The article reported on comments which the complainant, the chair of a branch of the Liverpool Riverside Labour Party, was said to have made publicly about a number of Labour MPs. It said that “Labour has been urged to ‘take action’ over [the complainant] who questioned the loyalty of Jewish MPs to the UK”. It reported that he had said that the “’prime interests’” of a named Jewish MP were “not with Jeremy Corbyn’s party and instead were ‘elsewhere’”. The named MP had reportedly said “This man and his vile views have no place in the party that I have dedicated my life too. These traditional anti-Jewish tropes about duel loyalty and the disgusting justifications of Hitler’s stance towards Jews are simply unacceptable—the Labour Party needs to take action.” The article said that the complainant had “sought to justify the former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s repeated references to Hitler and Zionism”, and that he had written that “Mr Livingstone had been expected to provide “a detailed resumé” of Hitler’s policy for ‘an MSM soundbite’”.

3. The article was also published in substantially the same form online, under the headline “Coronation Street and Hollyoaks star suspended by Labour over ‘vile’ attacks on Jewish MPs”, on 17 April 2019.

4. The complainant said that the article – in reporting the MP’s comment that he had sought to justify “Hitler’s stance towards Jews” – had contained the serious and false allegation that he had sought to justify the Holocaust. The complainant said that he had never written anything which could be interpreted as seeking to justify the mass murder of six million people.

5. The complainant did not consider that it was clear from the article that the MP’s quote had related to the support he had given to Ken Livingstone who had spoken about Hitler’s support for a Jewish state. He noted that up to the point that the MP had been quoted, there had been no mention of Ken Livingstone in the article; the connection to Ken Livingstone would not have been apparent to readers. He considered that the newspaper had accepted that the article had suggested that he had sought to justify the Holocaust as it had offered to address this in a clarification.

6. The newspaper considered that the comment made by the MP in relation to the complainant had been accurately reported. It accepted, however, that its meaning was ambiguous and could have wrongly implied that the complainant had sought to justify the Holocaust.

7. Nevertheless, the newspaper argued that in the full context, it was clear that the MP’s comment had not related to the complainant’s views on the Holocaust, but to the support he had given to Ken Livingstone who had repeatedly spoken about Hitler’s support for a Jewish state. It considered that this meaning would have been taken in this context by readers who were familiar with the subject as it had been reporting for years that allies of Jeremy Corbyn had spoken in support of Ken Livingstone and his views on Hitler and Zionism.

8. In an attempt to resolve the complaint, the newspaper initially offered to publish a clarification to address the complainant’s concern that the quotation could have suggested that he had sought to justify the Holocaust. It had offered to publish this in the “For the Record” section in print and as a footnote to the online article. The newspaper said that it could not apologise for comments made by an MP.

9. The complainant rejected the newspaper’s offer of a clarification, and its suggestion that the MP’s comment was ambiguous. He said that it was a clear allegation that he had sought to justify the Holocaust, which required retraction and an apology.

Relevant Code Provisions

10. Clause 1 (Accuracy)

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. In cases involving IPSO, due prominence should be as required by the regulator.

iii) A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.

iv) The Press, while free to editorialise and campaign, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

Findings of the Committee

11. The newspaper had been entitled to report comments the complainant made in relation to the named MP, and it had been entitled to publish her position that the complainant’s “disgusting justifications of Hitler’s stance are simply unacceptable”.

12. The Committee considered, however, that the way in which the MP’s comment had been presented in the article could have amounted to an allegation that the complainant had had previously sought to justify the Holocaust.

13. The Committee did not accept the newspaper’s position that it was clear to readers that the comment had related to the support the complainant had given to Ken Livingstone who had spoken about Hitler’s support for a Jewish state. The references to Ken Livingstone in the article had not been clearly linked to the MP’s quote. The Committee also did not accept the newspaper’s contention that regular readers of the newspaper would have understood the context in which the MP’s comment had been made.

14. The Committee concluded that the newspaper had failed to take care over the presentation of the quotation in breach of Clause 1(i). It was significantly misleading to present the quotation in a way which might be understood to mean that the complainant had sought to justify the Holocaust; this required correction under Clause 1(ii).

15. On receipt of the complaint, the newspaper had offered to publish a correction in print and online, which acknowledged that it could have been understood from the article that the complainant had sought to justify the Holocaust. The Committee considered that the newspaper’s response to the complaint was sufficient to meet the terms of Clause 1(ii). In this instance, an apology was not required as the newspaper had been entitled report the exchange of comments between the complainant and the MP, and although the presentation of the MP’s comment had been misleading, the comment itself had been accurately reported.

Conclusions

16. The complaint was upheld.

Remedial Action Required

17. Having upheld the complaint, the Committee considered what remedial action should be required.

18. The Committee considered that the newspaper should publish a correction with the prominence of its original offer (in the For the Record section and as a footnote to the online article). The full wording should be agreed with IPSO in advance.

 

Date complaint received: 30/04/2019

Date complaint concluded by IPSO: 13/01/2020